I reached for my 1997 Time Out London Guide recently, and remembered why I have a copy of this edition, and why I have kept it. Twenty years ago, the guide’s editor, Nicholas Royle, asked 20 or so Londoners, including me, our favourite three things about being in London. These were then compiled, anonymously, to form the introduction to the guide. Our reward: a free copy of the guide, and a name check at the front of the book.
I’m sure I must have been dead chuffed to have been asked, especially to be identified as a Londoner. And I have a vague memory of enjoying the task of reflecting on and nailing down the top three things I loved about being in London. So as I opened my copy the other day, I wondered how easily I could identify my trio of London faves, and what that might reveal about me back then, and now.
1) Walking through St James’s Park at dusk, when the ducks and squirrels are at their friskiest.
2) Sitting in the front seat on the top deck of a Routemaster bus.
3) Sampling olives and other delicacies in Selfridges food hall.
Easy-peasy. That was me, twenty years ago. Now, Battersea Park has supplanted St James’s Park, as I’ve become much more interested in and attached to my immediate area. Back then, the walk through St James’s Park was often on the way to the ICA, for a film, exhibition or other cultural event. I haven’t been to the ICA in yonks. As far as Selfridges is concerned – those days are well over! But sitting front seat top deck of a double-decker bus – now, that is definitely still up there as one of my three favourite things about being in London. In 2017, that looks like this:
1) Spending time in Battersea Park in all seasons; walking, cycling, sitting taking it all in, always noticing something new, changed or changing.
2) Sitting top deck front seat on a double-decker bus.
3) The river Thames, at high tide, low tide and everything in between; in all weathers. Watching the river from the middle of one of the bridges, from riverside walks, from the top of a double-decker bus as we cross from south to north, or even better, from north to south.
I’ll finish with the same question Nicholas Royle posed at the end of the 1997 Time Out London Guide: What are your favourite three things about being in London?